Tops of the Town
Our readers’ picks of the area’s best
(page 2 of 11)
BEST Local Actor
GREG MILES PHOTOGRAPH
The classic advice to aspiring authors searching for their literary voices is to “write what you know.” For many years New Orleans actress and comedienne Becky Allen has mined what she knows about her hometown, and the result has been a career on stage that has kept local audiences both laughing and nodding along at the truth behind her over-the-top satire and parody of Crescent City culture.
“It’s a fun town to do this work in, because everyone’s ready to party and they don’t mind laughing at themselves,” she says. “The best compliment I think I ever got was from a guy who said his wife always drags him to the theater, that he hates it, but when he hears I’m in it he knows he’ll have a good time because he’ll get to laugh a lot.”
Allen was an extrovert from a young age. During her childhood in Metairie, she was drawn to all manner of performance, taking part in school theater, dance lessons, baton twirling – essentially, she explains today, anything with an audience. She began her professional career in the 1970s, working frequently with the late composer Freddie Palmisano and with actor, writer and director Ricky Graham, who remains one of her most constant comedy collaborators.
Together, they put on cabaret pieces and lampoons, and Allen quickly learned how readily New Orleans audiences respond to their own peculiar culture portrayed on stage. She frequently plays a number of roles in And the Ball and All, the comedy Graham wrote in 1996 as a send-up of nostalgic New Orleans. Another of her most popular roles is in The Queen of Bingo, a comedy about two sisters and their mother who are addicted to bingo.
Her trademark campy style, vigorously applied makeup and frequent performances at gay bars have earned her the comic handle as New Orleans’ only “female, female impersonator,” a title she claims proudly. But whether she’s on stage with a cast, taking the microphone for a solo cabaret act or appearing in local television commercials, Allen’s most memorable roles center on only-in-New Orleans characters who hit audiences as close to home as they do the funny bone.
“People have a good time here and I have a good time when I’m part of that,” she says. “It makes me happy to make them happy.”
— Ian McNulty